MARION - As the prep volleyball season nears the midway point, Cedar Rapids Xavier identified a vital ingredient if the Saints are to retain their No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Now is the time to turn up the defense.
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CEDAR RAPIDS— It didn’t take long for the No. 1-ranked Kirkwood women’s basketball team to assert its will on Ellsworth.
The Eagle went on a 16-5 run to open the game, burying the Panthers early on in the first round of NJCAA regional action. Kirkwood (31-0) hit three triples during the spurt and while they weren’t falling nearly as often in the second half, still finished with seven treys in the 72-48 win.
“This is a good group, they share the ball well,” Kirkwood head coach Kim Muhl said. “You’re in the tournament now, you don’t care what happens besides winning. Win and move on.”
The Eagles led 36-19 at halftime as turnovers and offensive lapses plagued the Panthers (10-20). Kirkwood’s defensive pressure made life difficult and the Eagles were continually able to get into passing lanes and disrupt the flow of the game.
This led to a number of easy transition buckets for the Eagles. Sophomore guard Deleyah Harris was especially impressive and constantly used her speed to get easy runouts. She was also solid from behind the arc, finishing with three makes from distance and leading all scorers with 20 points for the game.
Freshman Olivia Usher was also able to get things going, hitting two 3s and also finishing with a team-high five assists to go along with five rebounds.
“I feel like we shot the ball well and more than we normally do,” Harris said. “It’s starting to come naturally to us to shoot outside.”
Simone Goods is the reason for that. The 6-2 sophomore forward was a force in the paint, scoring 16 points and pulling down eight boards. She also blocked two shots and tallied two assists to fill out her stat line.
Able to draw contact seemingly at will, she nailed 6-of-9 free throws to help put an exclamation point on the win.
While Muhl did say he’d like to see more from his reserves, it seems like the Eagles are in good position as they climb their way through the postseason. Rylee Voss lead the bench scoring contingent with eight points and eight rebounds.
“Our second group didn’t really give us a whole lot to start with,” Muhl said. “When we get some depth, we get really good.”
Kirkwood will face Southwestern Community College on Thursday inside Johnson Hall in the semifinals of the Region 11 tournament at 5:30 p.m. If the Eagles win, they will face the winner of DMACC and NIACC in the championship on Saturday afternoon.
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